Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open fate remains uncertain with just three months to go until the first Grand Slam tournament of 2023. The world No 7 received an automatic three-year ban from returning to the country when he was deported at the start of the year and is waiting to see if this can be lifted. But one tennis player who was also deported this year has already had hers removed, though it will be much tougher for Djokovic to receive the same exception.
Djokovic was deported from Australia at the start of this year after having his visa cancelled twice – successfully appealing the first time but failing the second time which saw him kicked out of the country on the eve of the Aussie Open. His visa was first revoked when he landed in Melbourne unvaccinated with a medical exemption provided by Tennis Australia on the grounds that he had recovered from Covid a month prior.
The government initially did not accept this, deporting other people they found to have received similar support from Tennis Australia, including Renata Voracova who arrived in Australia at the end of December with an exemption explaining she couldn’t take the vaccine. The Czech star had even played a doubles match before she was detained and lost her documents, being asked to leave the country and obliging.
And the doubles world No 121 has already had her automatic three-year ban lifted, successfully appealing it back in July. But the judge who ruled that she could return to Australia had specifically explained why Voracova was able to do so compared to Djokovic, who would have a much harder time convincing authorities to allow him to return before 2025.
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“I also note, for completeness, that Ms Voracova’s case can be distinguished from [the] Djokovic [case] because her visa was not cancelled on the grounds of ‘good order,’ nor do the circumstances of her case lend themselves to such a conclusion,” Jan Redfern wrote when summing up the hearing earlier this year, according to The Age.
“As [already] noted, Ms Voracova is not opposed to vaccination and, unlike the Djokovic case where the minister apparently found there was evidence Mr Djokovic had shown a disregard for the self-isolation protocols, there is no such evidence before me to this effect in this case.”
The 21-time Grand Slam winner’s case is different to Voracova because of the nature behind how his visa was revoked. After having it reinstated, it was then cancelled by the then-Immigration Minister using his personal powers on “good order grounds” and Djokovic failed to appeal this decision as it was ruled his presence would “excite anti-vax sentiment” in the country.
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The world No 7 has been open about his decision not to get vaccinated against Covid both before and after the saga in Australia, and this was noted as authorities reasoned that Djokovic’s positive Covid test in December 2021 did not prevent him from getting vaccinated as he had already chosen not to in the past. And Redfern pointed this out as a key difference between Djokovic and Voracova’s cases, with the 11-time doubles title winner having “medical evidence” behind the reason she couldn’t get vaccinated.
“She truthfully answered the travel declaration and she had cogent medical evidence to support her exemption, being the evidence provided by her general practitioner about her vulnerability to thrombosis,” Redfern said. “Notably, Ms Voracova did not need to rely on the fact that she had previously contracted COVID-19 as a medical contraindication to vaccination because she had a medical basis to delay vaccination.”